By Linda Williams Swanson
Imagine if you set goals of gaining weight and living an unhealthy lifestyle. If those were your goals, you’d do the things I did for several decades of my life, including:
- Eat any food available 24-7 and eat often
- Eat to soothe emotions – feeling sad, anxious, or stressed
- Eat to ease boredom
- Eat when you can’t sleep
- Jump from one diet plan to another — plans that restrict your food intake, make demands on your executive functioning, and that require you to record total food consumption, caloric intake, and daily weight
Can ADHD Affect Your Weight?
I didn’t know it, but something else was affecting my lifestyle choices – ADHD. I didn’t get my ADHD diagnosis until my mid-60s, but I see now that it was always a huge factor in my weight challenges.
Today, we are more aware of the impact ADHD has on your weight. Dr. Roberto Olivardia, states, “Someone with ADHD is four times more likely to become obese than someone without ADHD.”
I tried dieting – often! Twice I lost 60 pounds.
The pounds returned after my first “success.” And they were coming back after my second 60-pound loss, at least until I found a better, ADHD-friendly diet to control my eating and my weight.
Almost eight years ago, I made a lifestyle choice that has worked for me like nothing else. Intermittent fasting (IF) has been a very positive experience for me.
Many people hear the word “fasting” and assume it’s impossible for them to follow this plan for eating. Don’t let the word scare you off! You already fast while you sleep.
Intermittent fasting extends the time you go without eating each day.
Intermittent Fasting, Weight Loss, and ADHD
I asked Dr. Russell Barkley for his thoughts on intermittent fasting for adults with ADHD.
His feedback was quite positive. He explained that intermittent fasting’s simplicity is what makes it such a good plan for those of us with ADHD.
There is one basic rule of intermittent fasting: eat only during your eating window.
One simple rule!
Diets make huge demands on your executive functions, where ADHD adults struggle most. Intermittent fasting is simple!
As an intermittent faster, you have no records to keep. The only thing to consider when you think of eating is, “Am I in my eating window?” (the hours you have chosen for eating).
If the answer is yes, you may eat. If the answer is no, you can have a non-caloric drink.
How Does Fasting Result in Weight Loss?
When our body receives no food for 12 to 14 hours, it burns stored fat as its energy source. Complicated biological processes are behind it, but this is the primary one.
We run on short-term energy from food when we “graze” around the clock. After 12 to14 hours of fasting, our bodies use stored fat as fuel. And the pounds begin to disappear. (Many other health benefits result from this process.)
Several eating schedules qualify as intermittent fasting. In one, you fast two full days each week and eat the other five days. I didn’t try that plan, as fasting for two days seemed too drastic.
Instead, I eat during the same five-hour eating window every day. I fast (but stay hydrated) the balance of every 24 hours.
Some people have an eating window of eight or even ten hours each day. Others have shorter windows.
The easy intermittent fasting regimen I use is 5/19. It has a five-hour eating window and a 19-hour fasting window. It allowed me to achieve my goal weight.
I eat from 7 a.m. to noon each day. If you try intermittent fasting, you may choose a 6/18, an 8/16, or even a 10/14 plan. You may prefer an eating window later in the day so you can have dinner with friends or family.
It’s up to you!
Some people start intermittent fasting with a longer eating window. Then they shorten it as their body adapts to the new schedule. I eat a good breakfast, a snack, and lunch by noon.
I drink water throughout the day, and if I’m a little hungry during my fasting window, I drink a cup of hot tea, and the hunger is gone.
If you try intermittent fasting, experiment to find a plan that works well for you – one that lets you achieve the results you want.
You can eat whatever you want within your eating window. Some intermittent fasters are omnivores and eat anything and everything they want.
Others are vegetarians or vegans. What we all have in common is that we all eat only within our designated eating windows.
On this plan, you don’t track your weight, food, or calories. It makes fewer demands on your executive functions, so it’s less challenging for adults with ADHD.
As a bonus, the eating schedule provides much-needed structure to the day. Each day follows the same pattern, with an “eating window” and a “fasting window.” That structure can be a huge support.
Who Should Not Do Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is not recommended for:
- People who are underweight or suffering from an eating disorder
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women
- People under 18.
As with any significant lifestyle change, check with your doctor first. Be sure you don’t have any conditions that make intermittent fasting a poor choice for you.
Intermittent Fasting with ADHD
When you have ADHD, support can make intermittent fasting much easier to start. When I started intermittent fasting, I had my own built-in support group.
My husband and I began (and continue) together. We have shared our challenges and successes.
As an adult with ADHD, I saw the benefits of intermittent fasting. I also found it much easier to start intermittent fasting with a partner.
If you’re struggling with weight loss and ADHD, and curious about intermittent fasting, reach out to us at Free to Be Coaching.